Don't throw away those used coffee filters, squeezed-out teabags and canteloupe, orange or lemon rinds: Wilma R. King can recycle them artistically.
The Rockville artists -- who for more than 30 years has made paper out of the above items and anything else that can be put in a blender, soaked and squeezed flat -- uses the resulting materials in handmade paper, silk and fiber artworks. She has produced a total of 883 works so far. p
Gallery owners have called her an "environmental constructionist." King observes: "This is what an artist's personal style is all about.
"Someone will present an artistic problem to me: Is is possible to do this with these materials? I never know, but I will give it a shot. "Once I start working, what I do with the composition of the materials evolves into what is my own set style.
"Every artist ought to be able to work without depending on commercial art store materials," said King who uses only acrylic paints and some dyes from commercial sources. But, she added, "if these were absolutely unavailable, there are pigments found in the earth that could substitute in most pieces."
King initially had difficulty finding fleece for her art work, but eventually convinced a breeder to produced it for her. She now has found it more economical to raise her own sheep on her farm, Hither and Yon in Taneytown, Md. Many of the fibers used in her art work come from farm crops such as corn, broccoli and green peas.
Carding and cleaning the wool is a lengthy process, and it takes King up to 18 months to finish enough pieces for a show. "Sometimes I am commissioned to do a piece on one month's notice and that's tough," she said.
When not working on the farm, King uses a remodeled work space that used to be the servants' quarters for her spacious Montgomery Avenue home. There, under shelves packed with colorful wool and pheasant feathers, she makes paper or spins and plys her wool.
One of her favorite paper inventions became a high school graduation gift for her daughter Bernadette. She took the graduation napkins, flowers and the program with all its names; reduced them all to pulp and made paper with which to produce a work appropriately called "Bernadette's Graduation."
If there is to be a byproduct of her work, this chiefly self-taught artist hopes that other artists and art lovers "will keep looking at ordinary objects in new ways and derive a natural high from doing it."